Things you never knew (because I never told you) about Muhammad Ali, Donald Trump, Clint Eastwood, God, Matt Lauer and David Letterman
I can understand why you might think some of my stories about meeting celebrities are not true. They seem so far fetched. Even to me! For instance, would you believe I gave World Championship boxer Muhammad Ali a ride in my car? Or that I interviewed Will Smith in his underwear? Or that a Hollywood party, I confused Clint Eastwood with God?
Well, you should believe those stories. They all true. Every last one of them.
STAN: You know what they say, “Truth is stranger than friction.”
HARRIETT: Nothing is stranger than you, Stan.
STAN: I’ll take that as a compliment.
HARRIETT: As it was meant, you ignoramus.
STAN: Thanks, Harriett. That’s two nice things you said about me.
When I look back on my CONTINUING career as an advertising Copywriter and a Creative Director, it makes me smile to think of some of the cool things I’ve done and the interesting people I’ve met. At one time or another, I’ve had close encounters with the following stars, superstars, moguls, icons:
The Lone Ranger
Professor Irwin Corey
God (I didn’t actually meet him. It was Clint Eastwood.)
The Lone Ranger
The Doublemint Twins
Close encounters with 31 superstars, pop stars, and fading stars
When I sat down to write this blog, well it didn’t make sense to stand, I could remember 31 close encounters I’ve had with famous people. Superstars, pop stars, movie and TV stars, comedians, singers, plus a business mogul, super hero, foreign beauty queen, ONE DIETY (well there is only ONE , you know), an astronaut, a President and Vice President and people who are tough to classify like Professor Irwin Corey, I enjoyed 30 of the 31 close encounters. Flavor Flav, now he’s another story. To be told in a future blog.
If STAN shuts up, I’ll cover about four or five close encounters I’ve had with pop celebrities (and even tell you about my own 14 seconds of FAME on the Letterman Show). If you’d like to hear about my escapades with any of the people we don’t get to today, just leave a comment on the blog.
Oh, but don’t ask about Carey Grant. No real story there. I walked him to his car after a PBS fundraiser. No big deal. Nothing interesting, unless you consider the fact that he’s tall and walks fast.
STAN: No? You’re kidding? He’s tall and walks fast? I find that incredibly interesting.
HARRIETT: You would Stan because you’re a first class idiot.
STAN: You think I’ve got class, Harriett? Thanks a lot.
Here’s a preview of some of my Life in the Fast Lane. We won’t get to all of them today.
The most interesting star I ever picked up in my 1965 Mustang? Muhammad Ali.
STAN: Liar, liar, pants on fire!
HARRIETT: Stan, you’ve got to stop embarrassing Jack in front of his Readers?
STAN: Why? He lied! They should know it!
HARRIETT: But you don’t know he lied.
STAN: C’mon, Harriett, you really think Goldberg met the world’s most notorious heavyweight fighter? Or that he gave him a ride in his car?
HARRIETT: Chill, Stan. Let Jack tell his story. Then we’ll see who’s got egg on his face.
STAN: I’ve got egg on my face?
HARRIETT: No, Stan, it’s just an expression.
HARRIETT: Actually, Stan, you do have egg on your face.
Where was I? Oh yeah, I did give Muhammad Ali a ride in my 1965 Mustang. Here’s how it happened. The year was 1967. It might have been ’68. (It was the 60s. Who can remember?) I was sophomore or a junior at American University in Washington, DC. and I was in student government. One of my jobs was to take care of concerts and special events.
The World’s Greatest Heavyweight boxer was speaking to the student body at American and since I was in charge, I gave myself the plum job of picking up Muhammad Ali at the Washington National Airport. I think it was Washington National. Who can remember? It was the sixties.
The Champ arrived at the airport with an entourage of 8 men in dark suits with black hats, black ties, white shirts and no smiles. The Champ rode in my car and the 8 other men in dark suits with black hats, black ties, white shirts and no smiles crammed into the two cars behind me.
Most young people reading my blog probably won’t even know who Muhammad Ali was and is. After all, young people try not to concern themselves with history, geography, politics or anything that might get in the way of tweeting, texting or becoming mayor of someplace on Four Square.
I mean, if it’s not on a Facebook wall, Hell, maybe it never really happened.
Muhammed Ali was the world’s greatest fighter, winning the Heavyweight Boxing Championship three times and defending his title more than two dozen times. But he was just as great outside the ring as he was beating up opponents in it. He was a great showman and a poet, really the first sports star who was also superstar.
He defended civil rights with his words and his actions and he refused to join the army even at the risk of going to jail. In fact, back at a time when the “N-word” wasn’t called the “N-word” it was THE ACTUAL N-WORD, Ali used it himself to co-opt the term from the racists who couldn’t tolerate his success.
Here’s a great clip of Ali fighting with his fists and his mouth (PC Alert: This clip mentions the N-word several times. I apologize for that but history should never be covered up and racism was very much a part of America when Ali fought in the 1960s.)
STAN: Ought-oh, Harriett. I think Golberg’s ADD is kicking in. He may never get to the end of his story.
HARRIETT: Fasten your seat belts! We’re in for a bumpy ride!
Anyway, getting back to my story, here I am driving the world’s greatest prize fighter to the American U campus. Ali was silent for most of the 25-minute trip. And I didn’t want to say the wrong thing, so after a few pleasantries, I was silent and so was Ali. That, in itself was amazing. The two loudest mouths in the Universe were suddenly silent.
But when we got to the gym where he was speaking, Ali got out of my car, closed the door, leaned in the open window and said, “ You don’t have much of a car for a white boy.” Then he smiled that infectious Ali smile.
I thought it best not to punch him out.
The Most Interesting Celebrity I ever confused with God.
This is a BONUS “Close Encounters with a Celebrity” story, about not one but three celebrities, two you’ve heard of (Clint Eastwood and God), the third you’ve seen his name hundreds of times, but probably wouldn’t recognize him. It’s Dick Wolf, TV’s most talented and most successful producer. But back before he created and produced 456 episodes of Law & Order, 248 episodes of Law & Order Special Victims Unit and countless episodes of Law & Order Criminal Intent…
STAN: Why are they countless episodes? Didn’t somebody count them.
HARRIETT: I would explain it to you Stan, but I think it’s above your pay grade.
STAN: I’m getting paid for this?
HARRIETT: Believe me, Stan, we’re all paying for it.
Before Dick Wolf was a TV’s most prolific producer, he wrote and produced movies and before that he was a Copywriter working at Benton & Bowles with this Creative Director. Dick and I became friends when we both worked together in NY and when he moved to California, he used to let me stay at his house in the Hollywood Hills whenever I had to go out West to shoot a commercial.
Anyway, one night when I way staying a Dick’s house, he threw an intimate Hollywood party. There were 15, maybe 20 guests.
I had a great time at the party. There were a lot of famous people there, many I recognized, and some, I knew their face, but couldn’t remember their name.
The next morning we were having breakfast in Dick’s kitchen and I asked Dick something about the party that had perplexed me.
“I had an incredible talk with some guy on the couch last night,” I said to Dick. “He had charisma the size of a football field. His personality could fill the room. He looked so familiar, but I couldn’t place his name.”
“Do you have any idea who he was,” Dick asked.
“Well, it seemed to me it was either Clint Eastwood or God.”
“Oh, then it must have been Clint Eastwood,” Dick said, “because I didn’t invite God.”
I had occasion to meet Clint Eastwood again when I was in the movie Absolute Power which was partially shot in Baltimore, my hometown.
STAN: Goldenberger was in a TV show? Really? I doubt it.
HARRIETT: He wasn’t just in it. He had four walk-on roles.
STAN: This I’ve gotta see.
HARRIETT: You can. Jack’s making a copy and when the mp3 file is ready, he ‘ll post it on the blog.
The most interesting actor/director and producer who threatened to throw me off a movie set? Clint Eastwood
I met Clint Eastwood a second time when he was filming a scene from the movie Absolute Power in Baltimore, MD.
STAN: Wait, didn’t he just say that?
HARRIETT: Quick. Get the Riddlin.
Most of the shoot day, I saw Clint from a distance. After we finished the last scene of the day, I went to return the costume I was wearing, got dressed, and headed around a building to where my car was parked.
No sooner had I turned the corner when I saw Clint Eastwood. For a second, we both stopped in our tracks. I figured, “Great. This is the perfect time to tell him I met him at a Hollywood party and confused him with another Superstar, God (or if you’re Catholic, Jesus Christ Superstar.)
I started off the conversation with a simple ice-breaker, “You mind if I shake your hand?”
Clint said, “You could…
I offered him my hand.
Clint said, “…but if you touched me, I’d have to throw you off the set.”
Was he angry? Was he kidding? Would he really pick me up and toss me off the set?
I decided to move on without saying a word giving Clint a fake, but well intentioned smile. Later, I found out that Clint wasn’t kidding. There is actually an actor’s union rule that extras are not allowed to physically touch any of the actors or the director. If they do, they can be summarily “thrown off the set. ”
I was pretty sure that if I shook Clint Eastwood’s hand, he wasn’t really going to pick me up and throw me across the parking lot. Then again, I didn’t want to take any chances.
Getting my hands on Donald Trump’s wallet. Don’t try this trick at home.
I’ve already recounted in previous blogs how I met Maria Kezha, the last Soviet Union beauty queen. It’s a fascinating story about representing the Miss USSR Beauty Pageant and had breakfast with Donald Trump, dinner with Bill Cosby and even got to be on David Letterman Show back when he was on NBC.
My close encounter with Donald Trump took place in his office. I had convinced People Magazine to do a spread on the beautiful Soviet Union Beauty Queen while she was in town and I thought that a picture with Donald Trump and Miss USSR would have been a keeper and made it into People Magazine.
Two weeks earlier, Trump agreed, through one of his associates, to let the two Soviet Union beauty queens (Maria and First Runner-up Lauma Zemzare) stay at the Trump Plaza Hotel as his guest. So he was already aware of the Soviet beauty queens when he asked me, through his secretary, if he could meet them). I suggested that a perfect time would be in his office the day People Magazine was shooting our adventures in NYC. The two Soviet Union Beauty Queens, Donald Trump, two fashion model agents and I stood in a line to pose for a People photographer.
I was standing next to Trump and we all put our arms around each other to pose for the photo. Right before the shot was taken, I accidentally touched the back of Trump’s pants, right about where his wallet was. I turned to Trump and said,”Don’t worry, Mr. Trump, I’m not taking you wallet.”
Trump replied, “I’m not worried. And you’re not getting my wallet!” He didn’t smile. But when I look back on it, I think he was telling a joke. Nah, maybe not!
HARRIETT: Muhammad Ali, Clint Eastwood, God, Donald Trump. I think Jack’s running out of steam.
STAN: Wow, he runs on steam? I never would have guessed.
HARRIETT: No, Stan, he…Oh, never mind.
The most interesting star who ever called me a Liar? Matt Lauer
Before Matt Lauer became one of the lead hosts of The Today Show, he was a local reporter and anchor on NY’s WOR-TV. Back in the early 90’s (before the Internet was even a twinkle in Al Gore’s eyes), I got hired by Global American TV to help them promote the Miss USSR Beauty Pageant in America. The Pageant was a three-day affair and an amazing excess of bad taste. Except for the women who were stunningly gorgeous! Our eventual plans were to film the following year’s Miss USSR Beauty Pageant and televise it in the US with Billy Joel or Billy Crystal as an American host. And we would have done it , too, but our client, Russia, went out of business.
Anyway, I arranged for Maria and Lauma, the Russian Beauty Queen, to be interviewed on Live at Five, a local NY news show. Before the girls were to be interviewed, they had to go through a pre-interview with the show’s host Matt Lauer. The girls were scared. They had never been on live TV before and at the very moment Matt Lauer was interviewing them they froze and seemed to forget all their 8 years of schooling in English.
Matt wasn’t happy. You could see it in his face. He wanted to cancel the interview because he didn’t think the girls were up to it. In fact, since they couldn’t answer most of his questions, he was starting to question whether they were real, legitimate beauty queens.
Matt said to me, “I think you’re trying to put one over on us.”
“How’s that,” I asked.
“I think they’re fakes. These woman may be beautiful, but they’re certainly not beauty queens, ” Matt demanded.
“Of course they are? What do I have to do to prove it to you,”
“Show me the crown. Show me the crown, and then I’ll believe they’re real beauty queens.”
“Well that’s sorta silly,” I said. They don’t travel with a crown.”
I don’t know why, but Matt was convinced, at least enough to let the interview go on. They girls were great. They were lively, funny and their years of practicing English suddenly came back to them. Moments later they were live on the Dave Letterman Show. Who knew?
Well, Readers, and especially you new Readers, thanks for stopping by today. I hope you enjoyed my close encounters with stars and superstars and that you’ll join us again.
STAN: Wait. Wait. I have something to tell the Readers.
Haven’t you told the Readers enough,interrupting me every chance you got?
STAN: Oh, please, Golberg..
My name’s Goldenberg.
STAN: Whatever, I just need to remind the new Readers of one thing.
Oh, all right. I guess it can’t hurt. (I know I’m going to regret this.
STAN: Readers don’t forget to send me $10 for reading this blog! You MUST send me $10 if you read this blog! It’s in the Fine Print.
Stan, that’s just not true.
STAN: I know, it’s really $5. I was trying to get another 5 for Harriett.
Say goodnight Harriett. Say goodnight Stan.
STAN: Goodnight, Harriett. Goodnight Stan!
HARRIETT: Goodnight, everyone. Y’all come back real soon.